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Frost: The Iamb and other stories…. An introduction to metre, with an eye on AO2. WHY?. AO1 use of appropriate critical vocabulary and technically fluent style/ well structured and coherent argument

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frost the iamb and other stories
Frost: The Iamb and other stories…

An introduction to metre, with an eye on AO2.

slide2
WHY?
  • AO1 use of appropriate critical vocabulary and technically fluent style/ well structured and coherent argument
  • AO2 exploration and analysis of key features of form and structure with perceptive evaluation of how they shape meanings
  • AO2 exploration and analysis of key aspects of language with perceptive evaluation of how they shape meanings.
  • BAND 6 descriptors.
  • With poetry, many are afraid of “form” and only allow structure to rest on a general comment about free verse…
poetry has rules
POETRY HAS RULES!
  • (Not always)
  • Robert Frost is famously misquoted in saying that writing free verse was like playing tennis with the net down – you can find the real quotation yourselves and consider its implications.
  • For Frost, poetry had a regular structure and form – generally iambic pentameter or tetrameter
  • ???
technical lexis and explanation part 1
Technical lexis and explanation: part 1
  • The term IAMBIC PENTAMETER: The IAMB is a unit of poetry – a foot – consisting of one unstressed and one stressed syllable.
  • Ta-DAH!
  • Five of these make a PENTAMETER ( it’s Greek to me…)
  • Four make a TETRAMETER
  • Consider: a short line of poetry about my life –
  • When I am teaching all I feel is joy
  • ˘ ˉ when repeated they will look like this.
slide5
SO:
  • Frost chose this metre as his basic form when writing. Why?
  • Suggestions are that it is the nearest poetic form to natural speech or that it mimics the human heart beat
  • This may be so, it certainly flows well when you read it aloud.
  • But it would get very boring if it never changed…
only break a rule once you have learned how to use it
Only break a rule, once you have learned how to use it.
  • There are common variations to the IAMB found in these poems:
  • The Trochee: ˉ˘
  • The Spondee: ˉ ˉ
  • The Pyrrhic: ˘ ˘
  • There is also the anapaest, but I will leave him for another time…
slide7
USES:
  • If a poem is solely written in IAMBs it will become tedious.
  • All poets use the TROCHEE as a substitute to emphasise key words, usually in the first foot of a line – though not always.
  • The SPONDEE is quite rare – think how rarely you stress two adjacent syllables in everyday speech.
  • The PYRRHIC is often a filler to balance the rhythm of everyday speech and to save a line from becoming too “poetical”.
  • Don’t worry where these terms come from, just become confident when using them…
examples metre in action
EXAMPLES: Metre in action!
  • Straightforward Iambic Pentameter?
  • I’ve known ere now an interfering branch
  • Of alder catch my lifted ax behind(me).
  • But that was in the woods, to hold my hand
  • From striking at another alder’s roots.

Consider the words in italics: how do they fit into the basic iambic pattern?

The first one is an extra unstressed syllable

The second MAY be a pyrrhic substitution. Why might Frost wish to do this?

discussion
Discussion
  • I’ve known ere now an interfering branch
  • Of alder catch my lifted ax behind(me).
  • This gives a “soft or “feminine” ending to the line which almost ensures that the reader seeks a response or an explanation to what is not a definite statement. Note also the way the rhythm might also start to replicate the action of chopping wood and place emphasis on the AX as a key idea. We call the extra syllable HYPERMETRICAL.
  • If this hypermetrical line creates an open ending to the first couplet, the next should respond to it in a similar way…
discussion 2
DISCUSSION 2
  • But thatwasin the woods, to hold my hand
  • From striking at another alder’s roots.
  • The point about the Pyrrhic is this: If you were to say the line naturally you would hurry over the words “was in the” to get to “WOODS”. In the IMABIC structure an unnecessary weight is put on “IN” and the line becomes a bit too bouncy. Substituting a PYRRHIC for an IAMB in the 2nd foot prevents this AND helps to maintain the sense of conversation so vital to this poem.
  • Also the strict Iambic Couplet seems to provide an answer to the opening – clarification. Considered musically, these are a pair of answering phrases, created by the use of the extra unstressed syllable in line 2.
  • We call this technique STROPHE and ANTISTROPHE.
give me more
GIVE ME MORE:
  • Which device do you see here:
  • Two roads diverged in a yellow wood?
  • Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
  • This is more complex. It opens clearly with two IAMBs and concludes with a 4th (it is a tetrameter) but then?
  • This is the anapaest in action… the sounds “in a Yell-” require a new foot: ˘˘ˉ which is a bouncy little chap. The underlying IAMBIC feel is not really affected though.
another
Another:
  • Drama is delivered with a TROCHAIC SUBSTITUTION:
  • As if /to prove/ saws know/ what sup/per meant,
  • Leaped out/ at the/ boys hand,/ or seemed/ to leap-
  • He must/ have giv/en the hand./ Howev/er it was,
  • Neither/ refused/ the mee/ting. But the hand!
  • Line 1 here is a straight IAMBIC PENTAMETER which moves the story on at pace and in a natural rhythm. Frost inverts the metre at the start of line 2 where a trochee places stress on the unusual and vital action of the saw and continues with a pyrrhic in the 2nd foot to allow the story to be told in a natural speech rhythm before reverting to an Iamb to stress the HAND.
  • The third line contains a CAESURA to indicate a shift from narrative to comment upon it, following the anapaest in the third foot. In Line 4 a Trochee is used again to stress the opening which combines the boy and the saw in the action. After the caesura, the iambic Pentameter continues unchanged, though the effect of the caesura is to suggest a strong accented re-attack on the cry “But, the Hand!” thus strengthening the exclamation and the shock/ horror felt by the narrator.
enough
ENOUGH:
  • When you are reading the poems, be on the look out for metre and don’t be afraid to bring the terms into class for discussion.
  • It is not easy – it is an area of analysis only applicable to poetry and it should be part of your armoury.
  • Remember that the most important part of your development as a student might be you willingness to take RISKS! Why not start here?